6 minutes reading time (1281 words)

Getting extensions ready for Joomla 4 - Olivier Buisard

Simplify-your-web

With the stable version of Joomla 4 getting closer, the Joomla Community Magazine is interviewing Joomla extensions developers to find out what path they are following towards Joomla 4. This month we had the chance to interview Oliver Buisard from Simplify Your Web, who develops extensions for Joomla only and is fully committed to making our lives as web designers easier.

Thanks for joining us in these series, Olivier! Could you tell us a little about your extension(s)?

I create extensions for the Joomla platform exclusively, as well as offering services such as website creation, migrations and maintenance. I have started Simplify Your Web in 2011 as a way to move from a hobby to a more structured business entity. I got into extension development for functionality that I needed for my own website creations and ended up sharing most of them with the Joomla community. As the extensions grew in functionality and complexity, I started offering licensing.

What will happen with your extensions or services when J4 is released? Will they be compatible or will there be completely new versions?

Making sure extensions work on both Joomla 3 and 4 is a solution I dismissed early on. The idea of mixing code for both versions of the platform did not appeal to me: code can get messy pretty quickly. There are way too many structural differences between the two Joomla versions. I have decided to come up with a 'clean' approach, where I can follow the Joomla 4 structure and way of building extensions. This ensures that all code written follows the new rules and takes advantage of all the new features Joomla 4 now offers (web assets, event dispatcher and so on).

There are so many differences 'under the hood' between Joomla 3 and 4, that I didn't see how I could deliver one version for both.

What should users do with the extensions when migrating to J4? What should they expect from their extension providers in general? And what can they expect from you?

A big part of the migration to Joomla 4 is going to be gathering information about the extensions you use. Will these extensions be available under Joomla 4? The work that is put into Joomla 3.10 will really help get that kind of information.

I do think all developers should lay out and document how they will support Joomla 4 for their extensions. They need to reassure and educate their users. Failure to do so will result in users looking for alternatives. I don't see websites being built in Joomla 3 with extensions that have no clear migration path for Joomla 4. No client of yours is going to pay for a Joomla 3 website and do it again down the road for a totally redesigned Joomla 4 version. The web is full of websites that have never been updated for that exact reason and it is easy to come across sites that are still under Joomla 1.5 or 2.5. Not updating a website is a major concern when it comes to security and misses on web technical advances.

Another major step will be the update of the templates. Now that Bootstrap 5 has been chosen to be released with Joomla 4, the race is on for template developers to be able to offer Bootstrap 5 compatible templates. The problem here is that if the template does not use the same Bootstrap version as the version packaged with Joomla, it needs to use overrides since layouts are shared between backend and frontend. Therefore there is going to be a lot of effort to be made on that end.

As far as my extensions are concerned, it will be necessary to install the new Joomla 4 compatible versions over the Joomla 3 versions once your site has migrated to Joomla 4. There won't be any loss in functionality unless that functionality has been removed from Joomla 4. Some functionality may be put on hold if it depends on third-party extensions that are not yet available under Joomla 4. By the time my extensions will be ready to test, such issues will be fully documented. Primary details are already available on my website.

As a developer, would you say it is important to start preparing extensions as soon as possible?

Preparing extensions for Joomla 4 is a long process, longer than I expected in fact. I have realized that starting early on was like trying to hit a moving target, but nevertheless, it was important to look at it as soon as the alpha versions started to come out. It helped me get a sense of what was expected. Early on I made a version of jQuery Easy (a plugin that helps reduce javascript issues inherent to jQuery library duplicates for instance), just to get my hands dirty. I learned a lot from it. I am not yet sure if a product like jQuery Easy will be relevant down the road, but jQuery, although phasing out of Joomla, will probably still be used in a certain number of extensions which rely on it.

How do the different types of Joomla versions impact on the update of extensions (alpha, beta, RC)?

The decision to change Bootstrap from 4 to 5 was an important and bold move. I do applaud that decision. Joomla 4, made to be a version that catches up and embraces the latest web advances could not possibly rely on an almost (already) outdated Bootstrap version. This came late in the game and it means more work for some now, but it was the best decision to make it for the long run and get people excited.

RC release is when you should expect to see Joomla 4-ready third-party extensions. I am planning on starting to release some of my extensions under Joomla RC for users to test them and report on remaining issues.

How do you expect the launch of J4 to impact your business?

Joomla 4 will allow me to produce better quality extensions, improve on web standards and accessibility. The web evolves and Joomla needs to keep evolving.

I have prepared my business for this for years. My first work on Joomla 4 dates back to January of 2018. I have prepared my Joomla 3 extensions with Bootstrap compatibility features (so you can match outputs with the Bootstrap version your template is using), use of Joomla namespaces and jQuery-free javascript. All of that to ease the move from Joomla 3 to 4.

Despite a degree of 'readiness', there was a lot to be done in Joomla 4 and I have spent a lot of time on that. At first, documentation was scarce and it took me some time to 'dissect' each release and see what I could learn from it. I did post a couple of articles on Joomla 4 to present some of my findings in the hope it would help others. I did participate in a few 'pizza bugs and fun' events (and met great developers from Europe that way).

What else would you like to advise our readers regarding extensions and Joomla 4?

Now that Joomla 4 is closer to release than ever, start looking at your extensions and template pool and reach out to developers if you don't have a clear view of what their plans are. Test Joomla 4, 'play' with it, don't be shy and report issues.

Events and Joomla User Groups have moved online and you can now register to events or meetings all over the world. There has never been such a sense of 'global' community since the pandemic started.

Joomla 4 has a lot to offer, you can be a part of it!

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